Day of decisions for Tully at East Stirlingshire

Craig Tully
Craig Tully

Craig Tully faces some tough and important selection issues as he prepares to pick his team for this weekend’s SPFL League Two match against Annan Athletic at Ochilview.

With one of his experienced defensive mainstays, Michael Bolochoweckyj, now free

of suspension and another, Chris Townsley, making his way back after injury, the

Shire coach has to decide whether to twist and bring back his most experienced

players or stick with the youngsters who have done well as stand-ins.

His job is not made any easier by the fact that he has no reason to complain about

the performances of teenage central defensive partnership Jordan Tapping and

Connor Greene who, after last weekend’s solid display in the win over Clyde, might

consider themselves unfortunate to be left out this week.

Tully’s issues don’t end there. David Greenhill was absent from the team on

Saturday and although the experienced midfielder has been one of Shire’s more

consistent performers this season, the middle line coped well in his absence. Again,

were he to return at least one other player might feel a bit miffed at being left out.

Shire have spent the first few games of the campaign chopping and changing every

week as a different set of circumstances have cropped up to deprive them of key

players.

But out of that process the coaching staff has gained a better understanding of what

works and what doesn’t. Clearly, against Clyde on Saturday something clicked and

they emerged from the game with one of their best performances and results of the

season so far.

The relative youth of his staring eleven for the Clyde match now seems less of a

concern for Tully than it was in the summer when he went to some lengths to try and

ensure a strong, experienced base for his squad.

As time has worn on, though, that plan has fallen by the wayside with David Niven

and Paul McMullan failing to appear while Townsley’s injuries have limited his

appearances as weel.

Given all of this, Tully seems to have adopted an ‘if they’re good enough they’re old

enough’ approach with youngsters singed in the close season with a view to playing

in the under-20s now in the first team.

“The club wants to go down the youth route so maybe it’s no bad thing to get them

into the team right now,” said the Shire coach. “You can see the younger ones

are starting to find their feet at this level and the more games they play the more

confident they become in their performances.”

A lot hinges on the outcome of Saturday’s match. Annan are one of only two teams

below Shire in the league table and victory against them would move Tully’s team

comfortably into the pack while defeat could leave them looking vulnerable.

They seem to have developed an affinity with their rented ‘home’ at Ochilview,

winning both league games there this season while losing all three on the road. Shire

also have a pretty good recent record against this weekend’s opponents who have

struggled despite being play-off challengers last term.

That said Jim Chapman’s team recorded their first league win of the season at the

weekend against Berwick Rangers, a team Tully has already described as “the best

we have faced all season” and the Shire coach has already tipped \Berwick to win

the league.

With that kind of background it should make Saturday’s game an interesting

encounter and although important to Shire’s chances of making the kind of progress

Tully wants them to make, it’s hardly yet ‘make or break’.